Ready made, standard sized frames have become widely available at low prices from a number of different outlets in recent years. This may have taken trade away from some picture framing businesses, but on the whole, individually made-to-measure frames have always been aimed at a different market. The popularity of low priced ready-made frames presents extra business opportunities for frame makers who are able to produce standard sized frames cheaply enough. Framing businesses with a retail outlet can consider buying in cheap frames on a wholesale basis rather than producing them on site.
The huge rise of the web and e-commerce has seen the appearance of online framing specialists who make custom-sized frames in a wide range of different styles, colours and materials. Often their prices are very competitive too. Unfortunately these types of framer have taken another chunk of the work that was once done by the traditional craft specialist, so many now focus on the top end of the market and offer their services to people who need valuable or unusual works of art (or other items - some framers get some very unusual requests) to be put carefully into a high quality frame that will protect them, enhance their value and display them to best advantage. Of course, others have moved into e-commerce themselves.
Interest in art, antiques, photography and interior design ensures a steady demand for picture frames and framing services. However, the late 2000s and early 2010s saw a downturn in the economy that affected the amount of money people had to spend on non-essentials like artwork. Things began to pick up again during 2013 and 2014 and into the first half of 2015 but the recovery slowed towards the end of 2015 and into the first half of 2016. The Brexit vote in June 2016 and the protracted negotiations for leaving the EU added uncertainty to the economic picture, slowing growth throughout the whole of 2016, 2017 and 2018. Higher inflation squeezed household spending power, adversely affecting expenditure on non-essentials, like artwork. There is no sign of any improvement in the economy and low growth is expected to continue during 2019 and 2020, with consumers further tightening their belts.
You will have to decide whether:
- there is sufficient demand in your area to support your proposed business
- you will be able to compete against other picture frame makers and suppliers in your area
- you'll need to specialise in order to compete more effectively - and if so, is there a niche in the market you could specialise in
- you will offer additional services to attract customers
Keeping up to date with the picture framing sector
Joining a trade association is excellent way of keeping up to date and is also a good way of demonstrating your professional integrity. The Fine Art Trade Guild represents businesses involved in fine art pictures, picture framing and picture restoration. The Guild promotes high standards throughout the industry. Among other benefits, it provides free legal advice to members, a Framers Technical Helpline for framing advice and an entry in its online members directory. The Guild operates the Guild Commended/Certified Framer scheme, an internationally recognised qualification which enables professional framers to advertise their expertise to customers. You can find out more on the Fine Art Trade Guild website.
The Crafts Council promotes contemporary crafts in the UK, maintains a national Directory of craftspeople working in the UK and offers seminars and training sessions. The Council also produces Crafts magazine and sends out regular e-bulletins to subscribers.
The Rural Crafts Association promotes handmade items at craft and trade fairs around the country and provides its members with details of forthcoming fairs and exhibitions, including several Crafts for Christmas exhibitions towards the end of the year.
Trade journals such as Art Business Today (published five times a year by the Fine Art Trade Guild) and general photographic, art and antiques magazines can help you to keep up to date with the latest developments.
You can get a lot of useful information by visiting a trade show which features art, framing and gift products such as the Spring and Autumn Fairs held at the Birmingham NEC. More information is available on the Spring Fair and Autumn Fair websites.